Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Rockets/Winterhawks Preview

Caleb Jones -
The Kelowna Rockets open a second round playoff series against the visiting Portland Winterhawks. These two teams are meeting for the 6th time in post season play. In the 2015 Western Conference final, the Rockets won in six games. The Winterhawks have ended the Rockets season in 2014, 2012 and again in 2011. That’s why this rivalry is so alive and well between two teams that met only four times this season. In those four games, the Rockets were 3-1-0-0. The only loss came January 28th, at Prospera Place, when the Winterhawks stormed back and scored the game winning goal with 4 second left in regulation time in a 5-4 victory. Game one and two are Friday and Saturday at Prospera Place with game three and four next Tuesday and Wednesday at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland. The Rockets advanced to the second round with a game 6 series victory over the Kamloops Blazers. The Winterhawks also advanced with a 6 game series win over the Prince George Cougars.

Rockets/Winterhawks Tidbits: These two teams have a combined 13 players on this year’s roster that played in the 2015 Western Conference Championship series….It is only fitting that the Portland Winterhawks stand in the way of the Kelowna Rockets competing in a 4th straight Western Conference final. The Winterhawks competed in 5 straight WCF’s from 2011-2015…Winterhawks 20 year-old Matt Revel knows the Rockets well. As a member of the Kamloops Blazers last season, Revel had a goal and two assists in a game four (5-1 W) win in last season’s opening round…The last time Mike Johnston lost in the second round of the WHL playoffs was to a BC Division team. In the 2010 playoffs, Johnston and the Winterhawks were defeated in 6 games by the Vancouver Giants.

Round One Recap: The Kelowna Rockets defeated the Kamloops Blazers 4 games to 2 in the opening round of the WHL playoffs. The Rockets won games one, two, four and six. Reid Gardiner led the way with 5 goals in the series, including three goals in a game 6 - 4-2 win. Dillon Dube was arguably the most consistent skater with 4 goals and 6 points in the 6 games. The Rockets penalty killing unit killed off 31 of 32 Blazer power play chances. The Rockets out-shot the Blazers in 5 of the 6 games, with the shots tied in one game. The Rockets opened the scoring in 5 of the 6 games.

Herry Scary: Scary good that is. Goaltender Michael Herringer answered the bell in an opening round series with the Kamloops Blazers. The 21 year-old (birthday in January) posted a goals against average of 2.00 with a save percentage of .928 and two shutouts.  Herringer has a career 2.29 goals against average in the playoffs in 28 post season games. Herringer faced the Winterhawks in the 2015 WCF when he made two relief appearances of Jackson Whistle. Herringer was in goal in the game 6, series clinching game and earned the win. Herringer was the Vaughn Goaltender of the Month for March. Herringer was 10-3-0-0 with a goals against average of 1.89 with three shutouts.

Season in Review: The Rockets finished in 2nd place in the BC Division with 95 points this season. That was one point shy of Prince George in the fight for a BC Division banner. The team was 45-22-5-0, which was good for 6th place in the overall WHL standings. The team scored the third most goals in the WHL (283) and tied with Seattle for the 4th fewest goals against. The team scored 14 more goals and allowed 12 fewer against than in 2015-2016. The Rockets had the third best power play in the WHL and the 9th best penalty killing unit. Cal Thurkauf led the team in goals with 33. Kole Lind had a team high 57 assists while Lind was the scoring leader with 87 points.  Nick Merkley led the team with 12 power play goals. Cal Foote had a team high +39 rating. Rodney Southam had a team leading 121 penalty minutes. General Manager Bruce Hamilton has been named the Western Conference nominee for Executive of the Year. Hamilton won the award back in 1991-1992 with the Tacoma Rockets and in 2002-2003. Forward Kole Lind was named a Western Conference 2nd team all-star. At the teams annual year end awards, Calvin Thurkauf was the MVP, Cal Foote was the Top Defenceman and Nolan Foote was the Rookie of the Year.  

That’s a fact Jack: The Rockets have generated 30 or more shots in 34 of their last 38 games….The Kelowna Rockets lost 10 of their first 21 regular season games. Since then, the team has 14 losses in the last 56 games…The Rockets are 24-9-2-0 since the trade deadline.

Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150

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